- Cinnamon Press
- Wales, United Kingdom
- Cinnamon Press is a small, independent publisher based in Wales & publishing the best new poetry and fiction with occassional non fiction and cross-genre titles. Books come from Wales, the UK and the world. We run writing competitions twice a year to find new voices in poetry and fiction with three categories (novel/novella; poetry; short stories) - each category has a cash prize plus publication. You can find our excellent list of titles at www.cinnamonpress.com
Saturday, 22 November 2008
What was most encouraging is that people were able to hear the wide range of issues that patrick addresses in his poetry and to witness his amazing integrity as a writer and performer – the passion was absolutely authentic and his energy was impressive – and, of course, the audience warmed to him.
We’re looking forward to more readings, including patrick’s appearance at the Welsh Assembly, Committee Room 24 on December 11th at noon. Borders are also making plans for the main launch – due to the pressure on them the date and time is still to be confirmed, but invitations will be issued and we are immensely grateful to Borders for both their stance on free speech and the seriousness with which they are treating the safety of their staff and the launch guests.
Wednesday, 19 November 2008
There’s been some debate about the invitation to patrick to read in the Welsh Assembly, most of it sadly missing the point. Christian Voice were not provoked into their extremist reaction –
patrick has been in dialogue with them for ages, long before a launch was planned, and the idea that the victim deserves threats of violence is absurd. But more to the point what matters is not how CV came by patrick’s poems, but how they reacted – with threats, the language of the battle ground and bully tactics.
The other really big point that is being missed in the debate is that the poems about religion (and they are not vitriol, but serious engagement) are a tiny minority of the poems in this book. There is a stunningly good and poignant sequence on domestic abuse against men; poems about urgent ecological issues, poems about war and pacifism, poems about education and much more.
The great thing about having a launch date and brave venues like Y Ddraig Goch Cafe, Caernarfon is that people will get the chance to not only see this great range on the page, but to hear the poems performed – and patrick is a fantastic performance poet. If you can’t get to one of the venues we’ll be putting up video footage on YouTube.
Tuesday, 18 November 2008
Today brought another encouraging step forward when the CEO of Borders stepped in to offer an alternative launch date to co-incide with patrick’s reading at the Welsh Assembly on December 11th. patrick will read in Committee Room 24 at the Assembly at noon and the book will be launched at Borders later that day (time to be announced).
It’s brilliant to see a high street chain that won’t bow to threats of harassment and that takes free speech seriously. We’re really grateful to Borders for the opportunity to give the book the start it deserves.
Don’t forget that patrick will be reading at Y Ddraig Goch Cafe, Eastgate Street, Caernarfon, LL55 1AG (opposite Weatherspoons pub) on November 21st 7.30 p.m. as well as in Cardiff on December 11th and we are also talking to Borders about other possible readings.
Monday, 17 November 2008
Yes – it has given a poetry collection lots of publicity (which is a pretty rare commodity) and it has brought out a fantastic chorus of support for free speech for which we are hugely grateful, but it’s also spun our heads – we’re a tiny little press run by two and bit people already working flat out – there’s no PR department, no spin doctor, no secretary to answer the phone.
And the other issue that shouldn’t be forgotten is that the threats haven’t gone away. Patrick will be reading at Y Ddraig Goch Cafe, Eastgate Street, Caernarfon, LL55 1AG (opposite Weatherspoons pub) on November 21st 7.30 p.m. and the venue has had lots of calls from Christian Voice supporters keeping up the vitriol. We are very impressed with the cafe owners who refuse to be intimidated and we’ll be there with books and support as patrick reads. We won’t be cowed, but it is pretty worrying to be facing all of this. In my last post I suffered three major assaults at work (ironic fact: I was working as a Vicar) – two of these assaults were life threatening – and I had to retire as a result – the injuries remain, but the post traumatic stress has largely been worked through and is under control. Facing these bullies presses lots of buttons and the notion that Cinnamon Press might have set this entire chain of events off as a publicity stunt couldn’t be more absurd.
There is nothing ‘whiffy’ about us comparing the events to Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses (as one blogger put it). The comparison came from Waterstones’ staff who told Cinnamon Press that they have not received this level of controversial correspondence about a book since the publication of Satanic Verses. The difference being that in that case Waterstones were altogether more supportive of the publisher and author, leaving Cinnamon Press with the suspicion that when it comes to publishers, size matters.
To keep it all from becoming too stressful Rowan (our MA student son who works part time for Cinnamon) had the idea of a fun contest on YouTube – to vlog a satirical poem on a religious theme. This isn’t about religion bashing – we have a lot of respect for the integrity of most people of faith, who are not only open to mature dialogue, but also know that a bit of parody and laughter is extremely healthy. The poems coming in are not religion hating, but light and funny – exactly as we hoped. And that’s also why Rowan mentioned that they should be in the spirit of Swift – not just for hyperbole and talking up our own wonderful poet, but because the best poem in darkness is where the stars are on the theme of religion is very much in the spirit of Swift – taking two texts from two religions and juxtaposing them to invite a deep reaction.
This is what Michael F. Suarez, S.J. says in The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Swift: “For Swift, language, religion, and politics are not strictly divisible... The serious business of Swiftian satire is that it invites (or provokes) the reader to be critical: that is, to judge. Most often, the judgments that Swift's satires ask us to make go well beyond straightforward condemnation of the work's obvious target; rather, we are led to form a series of deeper judgments about language, religion, and politics, and about the operations of human vice and virtue that govern these activities in others and in ourselves.”1
Certainly couldn’t put it better ourselves :) It’s not missing the point to invite others to do something in this vein, as patrick does – and of course no one is claiming he’s the new Jonathan Swift, but he is doing something in this tradition and it is because his work invites these ‘deeper judgements about language, religion and politics’ that he is seen as a threat, has come under attack and is still being threatened.
1. Suarez,, Michael F., S.J. "Swift’s satire and parody." The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Swift. Ed. Christopher Fox. Cambridge University Press, 2003. Cambridge Collections Online. Cambridge University Press. 17 November 2008
Sunday, 16 November 2008
So let’s set the record straight. patrick has been sending emails to several organisations for years, engaging in debate over a range of contentious political issues. None of this had anything to do with the launch and patrick’s communication with Christian Voice was of an ongoing nature and began long before any event was planned. To conflate this long term debate with deliberate provocation is inaccurate and unacceptable. No one associated with Cinnamon Press informed Christian Voice about the launch.
It was both disappointing and distressing to see the recalled email quoted by the BBC, particularly as it contains the very shaky allegation that ‘provocative action... was taken without prior discussion with the store or their consent and altered the nature of the pre-agreed event.’ If this wasn’t so outrageous it would be laughable. The ‘agreement’ in question was a couple of informal emails agreeing a date and that Cinnamon Press would turn up with refreshments and introduce our poet, which is exactly what we did, only to find we’d travelled for five hours for nothing. At no point was there any mention that the poet needed to keep quiet about the content of his work. Why would an author need Waterstones’ consent to continue a discussion begun months or years before and which made no reference to the launch? It is extremely bad faith to suggest that patrick and Cinnamon Press changed anything or gave grounds for the cancellation. We turned up in good faith having been told the day before by Waterstones that they were expecting protests, but had no intention of bowing to these or allowing the protesters to prevent the launch.
We remain adamant that the only people to blame for all of the furore are those members of Christian Voice prepared to threaten violence and acts of public disorder. By shifting the focus to trying to blame the poet the real issue is being lost. The real issue being that Christian Voice are being allowed to trample free speech with their threats and are continuing to threaten the venues that patrick reads at. Over the years patrick jones has corresponded with many organisations with whom he strongly disagrees and on every other occasion the result has been mature, if passionate, discussion, not threats. Anyone suggesting that patrick or Cinnamon Press are in any way to blame is simply handing these unsavoury bullies ammunition.
Patrick will be reading at Y Ddraig Goch Cafe, Eastgate Street, Caernarfon, LL55 1AG (opposite Weatherspoons pub) on November 21st 7.30 p.m. and at the Welsh Assembly at noon on December 11th in committee room 24, despite continued threats – please come and support him if you can and if you can’t be there then buy a book – annoy a bigot :)
Saturday, 15 November 2008
Rowan's excellent video of the launch that never was can be seen at:
My second open letter to Waterstones' can be heard at:
We've also had our first poetry response to the events surrounding the cancellation of patrick's launch at the request of the extremist group Christian Voice, who claim that the book contains 'enough profanity and female genitalia to excite the literati' (the genitalia references are part of a protest poem against female genital mutilation so I'm not sure why Mr Green associates this with excitement, but I'm not going to ask). It is, however, a great quote and we're pondering whether to print stickers with the quote for the front of the book.
We've had lots more fantastic and articulate emails supporting the book today and a few more sales - thank you to everyone who has written or bought and please do buy the book - it's now on special offer and it is brilliant and wide ranging and hard hitting and we really need to show the bigots that their attempts at censorship have backfired.
We also attracted cross-party political support with a great interview from Lorraine Barrett A.M. (Labour) and Peter Black A.M. (Liberal Democratic) organising a reading at the Welsh Assembly for patrick on December 11th. We also had a lovely message of support from Dafydd Elis-Thomas A.M. (Plaid). Christian Voice have taken the offensive against the Lib Dems (bet they're scared :)) without realising that right thinking people of all persuasions (and all faiths) don't want to be associated with bullies who threaten violence and want a repressive theocracy. (The politicians, poets and people of Wales plus all their wonderful supporters world wide are never going to let it happen, Mr Green)
So we are marching on with the campaign to persuade Waterstones to reschedule the launch and with the aim of making this great poetry collection a best seller - poetry topping the charts would make the whole thing worthwhile so please buy the book - annoy a bigot :)
Friday, 14 November 2008
We have had some enquiries as to whether patrick jones was responsible for the events that led to the cancellation of his launch. patrick’s work is politically engaged and he works tirelessly on many issues concerned with human rights and civil liberties. He has engaged with Christian Voice on previous occasions on a variety of issues and had sent an extract of his poetry in the spirit of ongoing debate to the leaders of Christian Voice. This was part of discussion dating back to March this year, there was no ‘gloating’ and no mention of the launch at Waterstones in this correspondence with Christian Voice.
It would be invidious to suggest that the person targeted by an extremist group should be in any way held responsible for being targeted. In the perspective of Christian Voice the mere existence of any alternative opinion to their own is ‘provocation’ and they want nothing short of the monolithic acceptance of their views. Fortunately most people in this ‘debate’ are reasonable – Gerry Johnson and I have agreed to differ on some things, but happily Waterstones are not blaming patrick for events that didn’t take place. To repeat what is on the Cinnamon Press blog earlier - there is only one group to blame here: Christian Voice.
Well, that's got that off my chest - on with the issues.
I spoke with Gerry Johnson this morning and it's really sad that we can't agree on all the issues over the cancellation of patrick jones's launch, but we did get some agreement. We both think censorship is wrong and this means that Waterstones will continue to sell the book.
Where we part company is on how to respond to the threats of bullying bigots. I do understand that Mr Johnson has to take the safety of his staff seriously and that he has a duty of care, but I don't think the cancellation was commensurate with the threat. We know now that Christian Voice were planning some leafleting and maybe a bit of shouting - the event could have withstood that. Mr Johnson rightly points out that things happened quickly and that he didn't know the scale of the threat, but he didn't just cancel with the rider that we could review later - he is adamant that the event will not be rescheduled. I may never persuade him otherwise, but I will continue to stand by my view that this is not necessary or reasonable. It gives far too much ground to those who use unscrupulous tactics, even threaten unlawful action. It may well be a matter for the police, but it is not a matter for capitulation.
Mr Johnson insists that Waterstones is not a public body but a private company and therefore there are no rights to the space - absolutely right, but his company made a commitment that involved Cinnamon Press in costs and then pulled out offering no recompense. And the idea that we should only defend public spaces from those threatening disruption or even violence simply doesn't convince me.
But even more deeply I'm disturbed by the fact that Waterstones still seem to be blaming patrick jones and that goes back to my original point about how mad it is to allow ourselves to believe that hateful views deserve equal weight and respect. I hope I'm wrong about this, but Gerry Johnson did say to me today that patrick had admitted sending faxes to Christian Voice and someone wrote to me earlier to say that Waterstones claimed that , "shortly before the event took place, the author deliberately took provocative action to create a furore around the publication of his book."
This is a terribly twisted version of the claims that Stephen Green is making. In fact patrick jones has a long history of political activism and campaigning for minority, civil and human rights. This has brought him into conflict with Christian Voice's 'down with that kind of thing' mentality several times over the years and as part of a recent and ongoing debate (patrick generously talks about trying to chat and debate with these closed minds) patrick had sent some of his poems, including one that protested against female genital mutilation. The correspondence did not allude to the launch at Waterstones.
To call this ongoing engagement 'provocation' is unacceptable. Anyone who disagrees with Stephen Green is provocative by their mere existence from his perspective, but that is not reasonable or sane. Even if Gerry Johnson cannot bring himself to reschedule the launch I would be deeply appreciative of some indication from Waterstones that they do not concur with Christian Voice's inflammatory blame of patrick jones.
I do want to stress that the issues that separate us from Waterstones are really not that huge - I'm glad the book is still on sale there and particularly grateful to the staff at the Cardiff branch for their support, but I don't want Christian Voice to get away with any chipping away at free speech and civil society. patrick jones should be promoting his work - it's brilliant and what else should he do with his book? Only Christian Voice are culpable here - not Cinnamon Press, not patrick jones and not Waterstones. But Waterstones do have it in their power to do even more...